"Hindu & Christian Scholars Hold Novel Religious Dialogue"

©Lúcio Mascarenhas, October 28, 2004.
[Copyright Terms & Conditions]. See also: "Convergence of Faiths", 2001.

Times of India, Bombay, Friday, November 7, 1997. Page 5. Re-Edited by Lúcio Mascarenhas.

Satanist Ivan Dias worshipping Gentoo demon 'Ganpati' By James Jacob, Bombay: The city witnessed a rare Christian-Hindu encounter recently. Religious scholars from all over India met at the Bharathiya Sanskriti Peetham (Indian Cultural Foundation) belonging to the K.J. Somaiya Memorial Trust, at the Somaiya Campus "Vidya-vihar", Bombay. The participants included representatives from the University of Turin, Italy, the Monastic Inter-Religious Dialogue (a pan-European organisation), and the Institute of International Education Development, based in South Korea.

The week-long seminar was inaugurated by the Archbishop of Mumbai Ivan Dias who lit a lamp before the idol of Ganesh with a call for greater inter-religious tolerance (See picture: http://www.geocities.com/prakashjm45/g/diasdemon.jpg). The organisers described the seminar as a novel attempt aimed at a friendly dialogue between Christians and Hindus. The themes of the seminar had philosophical-cultural and politico-religious dimensions.

Some philosophical texts of the Indian "sage" Sankara were reflected upon in some of the research papers presented by S.R. Talghatti of Pune, the Shubhasda Joshi Department of Philosophy of the University of Bombay and Prof. Satyapal Narang of the University of Delhi.

The first part of the seminar was dedicated to philosophical-religious arguments concerning the concept of God and the place of the cosmos. The seminar then proceeded to reflect upon the theme of Hindu and Christian mysticism and finally debated on the politico-religious theme of conversion. About 50 scholars, including foreigners, in philosophy and religion from different parts of the country participated.

"The seminar constitutes a new stage in dialogue since it is not merely a conversation between two religious traditions but also a common search for relevance of religious truths," stated S.K. Somaiya, chairman of the Somaiya trust.

Fr. Nicholas Manca of the Monastic Inter-religious Dialogue said in any Hindu-Christian dialogue, the Advaitha school of Sankara is meaningful for the metaphysical concerns of the two religions. According to Sankara, the ultimate concern of scriptures is the absolute itself, the knowledge of which alone can bring understanding to oneself and others.

"There should be no conversions based on coercion, inducement, temptation, deceit and fraud. Past conversions of this type, if any, should be forgiven and forgotten in order to approach the 21st century with an open mind," the concluding statement said.

The issue of conversion had generated a lot of heat at the seminar with some participants pointing to reports of mass conversion in Bassein. The reports were dismissed as false by Bishop Thomas Dabre, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai (and in-charge of Bassein), one of the participants of the seminar.

Every conversion should be based on conviction. Any conversion to a different religion should retain the best of the person's former belief and it should result in the synthesis of the two, Bishop Dabre added.

Kala Acharya, director of the Bharathiya Sanskriti Peetham said the seminar expressed concern over the unfortunate consequences of inter-religious rift in different parts of the world.

Speaking to this reporter, Stefano Piano of the Department of Indology, University of Turin, said the seminar was the first step towards a sustained Hindu-Christian dialogue.

Fr. Nicholas Manca, who worked as a missionary for 19 years in Bangladesh, said that inter-religious dialogue began in Italy some 20 years ago between Catholics and Buddhists monks of Japan. He said a similar dialogue is planned in Kandy in Sri Lanka with Buddhists and a number of other religious groups in India.
©Lúcio Mascarenhas.
Hosted by www.Geocities.ws